Federal authorities investigate after incident over Lambert

6:34 PM, Feb 14, 2012   |    comments
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By Mike Rush

St. Louis (KSDK) - It's a shining light pilots never want to see. The blinding light of a laser pointer filling up their cockpit.

Federal authorities are investigating after it happened to a commercial flight at Lambert airport.

Sunday evening, as a Southwest Airlines 737 was making its decent into Lambert Airport, the green light from a laser pointer penetrated the left side of the cockpit, 2,000 feet up.

Nobody was caught, but federal authorities are involved.

"From the perspective of airline pilots this is a serious crime," said United States Attorney Richard Callahan.

So serious people have been arrested for it.

An O'Fallon, Missouri man publicly apologized last year after completing a one year probationary period to avoid charges. He pointed a laser at a police helicopter.

And just Tuesday, 30-year-old Brian Monday appeared in federal court relating to a charge he pointed a laser at an airplane and a helicopter.

Callahan explains why this is so serious.

"If you hit the airplane, the light deflects around the plane and in the cockpit area, the pilots become blind temporarily.

Monday is charged with interfering with an airplane and a helicopter, which carries up to 20 years in prison.

Callahan says it's not likely he'll see that kind of severe sentence if convicted.

The U.S. Attorney says there's a measure in the works that would better address using lasers on aircrafts.

"There's a bill up on the president's desk, I understand, that would make this an easier crime to prosecute with lessor penalties," said Callahan.

Authorities say Monday pointed the laser at the airplane and helicopter in November.

A grand jury indicted him last week.



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